Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Kevin Coleman

What was the motive behind the secret directive on cybersecurity?

Information recently was leaked to the press and quickly became public about a classified presidential policy directive, PPD-20, that was signed by President Obama just weeks before the presidential election. This is the latest leak of sensitive or classified information, and it has many people wondering if we have lost our ability to keep a secret. 

While details are scarce, the general consensus of experts and of the reporting community is that this executive order established the rules of engagement when it comes to cyberattacks on the United States. The directive is said to set forth a set of standards that are to be used as a guide for the response and operations of federal agencies to confronting cyber threats. Sources report that offensive and defensive cyber actions are defined in detail for the first time. Integral to these standards is a set of definitions and thresholds or lines for cyber conflict, which if crossed would constitute an act of war against the country.

This action came on the heels of several federal executives warning of the implications of a successful cyberattack on the nation’s critical infrastructure. When you look at these recent comments and warnings, together with the signing of PPD-20, it raises some interesting questions. For example, why in what was thought to be a very tight election would the president take this action and risk increased criticism that the White House is closed and acts on its own? Is the clock ticking? Are all the comments and warnings accidental, or are they part of a coordinated effort due to threat intelligence about a pending cyberattack? The answers to these questions are not known.  Only time will provide those answers.

Posted by Kevin Coleman on Nov 29, 2012 at 12:55 PM


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